21 May 2010 – Santiago de Compostela

This morning, I was determined to have scrambled eggs with ham at least, and because of the lack of capability at our previous stop, I was prepared to cut up the sliced ham myself and give it to the cook.  This turned out to be not necessary at all, and I had delicious eggs with ham, cheese, and mushrooms.

We headed for Santiago de Compostela full of confidence that Miss Nüvi would show us the best way to this historic town.  However, we missed one turn, and from then on she led us on her own special tour, through windy, narrow, hilly roads, past small vinyards, and through groves of trees.  We saw one sign leading us to Santiago, for some reason, ignored it and let Miss Nüvi give us more of the same, which was actually a wonderful adventure.  However, when we saw another Santiago sign we put her on mute, and found our own way to town, except that when we were within 7 minutes of town, we passed up a turn to Santiago East (we wanted plain Santiago), and immediately Miss Nüvi indicated that we were 45 minutes from the city.  That turned out to be correct, because there was not another exit for 20 minutes, and we had to pay 1.90 Euros to continue north and another 1.90 Euros to get back south to town.

Lunch beneath the Parador de Santiago de Santiago de Compostela

Navigating the old streets and finding a good parking place was another worthy challenge which we met and triumphed, but only after making a rest stop at a small hotel who gave us a map as well.  We found the Cathedral, and then the Parador that had no room for us, immediately to its left.  We headed there for lunch.  The building is the oldest refuge, or hostel in the world, and dining there was a wonderful experience, especially since we chose the “Menu” again.  Even though we weren’t staying there, we got a good meal there.  We wound up telling the Maitre ‘D about our Parador itinerary, nine nights in six Paradors, and he said, “What could be better than that?”  What indeed.

After lunch we went to the Cathedral Museum, which was interesting because it showed a great deal about how they excavated and restored various architectural items.  It would have been better with an explanation in English, though.

The square was filled with “pilgrims” of every type, mostly with backpacks, walking sticks,

A pilgrim. Note the symbolic scallop shell.

and a scallop shell on their hat or stick.  The legend of St. James is worth knowing.  The story is that he was sent by his brother, Jesus, to Spain where he made nine converts.  He came back home and was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa, and then miraculously transported back to Santiago de Compostela where he is said to be buried.  The tradition continues that during the reconquest of Spain from the Moors, he miraculously recovered and led the Christians to victory in a key battle.  The city has been the third most important pilgrimage destination for Christians ever since, exceeded only by Jerusalem and Rome.

We then went into the magnificent cathedral itself, and found a giant censer hanging from a pulley high up in the main dome.  It was most impressive.  It is still an active church and we saw many priests, and there were waiting lines at the confessionals.

Catedral de Santiago de Compostela

As we left the cathedral we noticed that a great crowd was gathering in the square across from the main cathedral entrance.  Since we knew that 2010 was a “Jubilee” year for St. James (July 25 falling on a Sunday) we figured that St. James was what it was all about.  Just to make sure we asked someone who looked like they spoke English, and learned that at 7:00 that evening there was going to be a celebration of… are you ready for this?  We weren’t…. the 30th anniversary of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  There was going to be a special show with Darth Vader, storm troopers, and all the characters.  It was only then that I noticed how many kids were carrying light sabers.  Once again it is shown that one should hesitate to make assumptions.

It had been blazingly hot all day, and on the way back to the car we staggered into an outdoor café and had the best tasting fresh orange juice we have ever had.

We intentionally took the coast route back to the hotel, by going first to Vilagarcia de Arousa.  We don’t know the context of “Arousa” but we are curious to find out.

Back at the hotel we went for short walk through town, hunting for gazpacho, but

Dinner in Cambados

none of the restaurants here offered it.  Instead we found the wonderful outdoor Caramuxto Café and ordered Ensalada mixta and Calamares a la romana, although I had no idea how the Romans prepare calamari.  It turns out to be breaded and fried, and they were tender and delicious, and not rubbery, and the salad was excellent, too.

We are fully on Spanish time by now, and dinner was over  at 10:30 and it was time to go back to the hotel.  Of course if were were really on Spanish time we would be heading out for  a night on the town.

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